Out of all the humbling indignities of life as an early era Major League Soccer club, few were more stark and stigmatizing than teams being forced to move matches to often amateurish alternate venues. Some clubs like Dallas Burn and Chicago Fire were forced by circumstance to spend entire seasons playing at suburban high school venues with raw metal bleachers and psychedelic multi-sport field lines in an age that an increasingly history-focused league often avoids commemorating.
While the MetroStars/Red Bull organization never ended up playing as low as high school level, the crowded schedules at Giants Stadium and Red Bull Arena have made for some far-flung nights of soccer in the Tri-State area. Here’s a look at the various crash pads of MetroStars and RBNY history and what they’ve been up to lately...
Baker Field/Rocco B. Commisso Stadium – Manhattan, NY
Columbia’s soccer stadium on the very northernmost tip of Manhattan Island has had a few dovetails with Metro and RBNY history. Built in 1985 and initially known as Baker Field the 3,500 single-grandstand facility hosted a 2-1 Metro loss to the Dallas Burn in the 1997 Open Cup. In 2013 the stadium was named Rocco B. Commisso Stadium in honor of the famed discount rural cable tycoon, and in 2016 was installed with a new artificial pitch. In 2015 the stadium was briefly the home pitch for New York Red Bulls II, hosting a single match against Charleston Battery before the reserves returned to more logistically-friendly venues in New Jersey. Today the stadium still hosts Columbia varsity soccer matches as well as frequent Manhattan recreational league games.
Yurcak Field – Piscataway, NJ
Many Tri-State soccer fans will be familiar with Yurcak Field at the Rutgers University athletic facility in Middlesex County. Built to host the university’s soccer and lacrosse teams, the 5,000-seater hosted MetroStars Open Cup matches in 1999 and 2003. The 1999 run ended with a loss to fearsome derby rivals Staten Island Vipers, while the 2003 run remained for many years as the most successful in Metro history as they defeated New England and DC United in Piscataway on the way to a runner-up finish. Today the stadium’s name is likely to conjure up more unfortunate memories for local pro soccer observers as its substandard amenities were a central controversy in the recent labor disputes at tenant Sky Blue FC.
Mitchel Athletic Complex – Uniondale, NY
Already cursed by existing on top of the birthplace of the modern military-industrial complex, Mitchel Field was host to much less successful Open Cup runs for Metro, with Octavio Zambrano’s teams falling to Miami Fusion in 2000 and eventual champions Columbus in 2002. The stadium, which was the home venue for the New York Power WUSA franchise as well as frequent women’s national team friendlies in the early 00s, is still a hub venue for Long Island collegiate soccer, football and lacrosse as well as track events. Mitchel has even been lined up to host amateur league soccer in the near future, having come to an agreement with the New York Cosmos in 2019.
MSU Soccer Park at Pittser Field – Montclair, NJ
Montclair State University’s uniquely intimate soccer stadium has been a welcoming home for RBNY’s highly successful reserve team and a renovation of the facility in 2018 was beneficial to both the club and the university, but...just...(sighs)
Kean University East Campus (training facility) - Hillside, NJ
Before the days of the cutting edge multi-field training compound that exists now in East Hanover, Metro used to hold their practices in a small wooded schoolyard in Union County. The former site of the private Pingry School, in 1983 the campus was taken over by Kean University and became the college’s East Campus. In 2002, Metro decided not to renew an unfavorable lease with the university after a six year tenancy, choosing to let players endure the harsh turf of Giants Stadium on a daily rather than weekly basis.